Survey Finds Small Business Optimistic on 2009

Friday Jan 16th 2009 by Stuart J. Johnston
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Microsoft and Elance target those same small businesses with an Office Live Small Business offer to help them beef up their Web presence.

Dozens of major companies are announcing layoffs, while PC sales finished 2008 up only marginally. Even Microsoft is rumored to be looking at its first ever layoffs. Yet, according to a new survey, many small businesses are still optimistic about 2009 and are looking to expand their businesses' presence on the Web.

Released Wednesday, the report found that 40 percent of the 600 small business owners who participated in the online survey say they are optimistic about the economy in 2009, while 90 percent are planning to maintain current staffing or even add staff.

Further, 61 percent are planning on spending the same or more on marketing in 2009 as they did in 2008. Perhaps not surprisingly, a large number of small business owners -- some 43 percent -- feel that having a Web presence is "very" to "extremely" important, and 48 percent already have a Web site.

That, of course, means that 52 percent of small business owners do not currently have a Web site. Along with business owners who already have Web sites, that could spell a market opportunity for Microsoft. In fact, the online survey, which was conducted by Arlington, Texas research firm Decision Analyst in mid-December, was co-funded by Microsoft and Elance, Inc.

Given that much of the corporate world is pulling back on IT spending, Microsoft has to look for bright spots to promote its products. So should it be any surprise that Microsoft is launching a promotion to beef up its own presence with those same small business owners who have optimism toward the future?

That's why, also Wednesday, Microsoft announced a promotion in partnership with Elance, a freelance talent agency for Web designers, writers, marketing consultants, and technical programming talent. Under the deal, Office Live Small Business customers that use $250 worth of Elance services will receive a $50 credit toward their next Elance project.

"It's one way to try to get more people on board there [with Office Live Small Business]," said Matt Rosoff, analyst at Directions on Microsoft. Microsoft introduced Office Live Small Business version 2 nearly a year ago. At that time, it made many of the Office Live services free.

With Office Live Small Business, customers get free Web hosting, domain name, Web site, and e-mail. Some features, including e-commerce support, however, are time-limited with monthly or yearly charges after an initial trial period. For example, domain hosting and business e-mail is free for the first year and then costs $14.95 per year.

Additionally, Microsoft offers functions such as e-mail marketing, store manager, and online advertising on a fee basis. E-commerce features are free for the first month and then cost $14.95 per month. Keyword advertising on Live Search, MSN Search, and ASK is charged per click, while after a free month, e-mail marketing costs $9.95 for 200 messages per month.

Indeed, Office Live Small Business is one component of Microsoft's software-plus-services cloud-based computing initiative, but to date is not a big revenue maker. "It's been doing okay but it's a tiny part of Microsoft's overall business," Rosoff added.

Adapted from Internetnews.com.

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